NY1 has obtained exclusive data on how much crime and violence occurred in city homeless shelters last year. The numbers show overdoses and fights are frequent occurrences. But is crime going up? NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.
NY1 has obtained new statistics on crime in the city's shelter system covering the last half of 2016.
The data show there were 10 more deaths at city homeless shelters in the last six months of last year than the previous six months. Thirty-five people died in a homeless shelter between July and December of 2016. Many of those deaths were labeled natural or accidental.
The numbers also show overdoses went up as well. Thirty-eight people had an overdose in the last half of 2016.
It goes on. During the same time period, there were 165 fights at city shelters and 11 sexual assaults.
As part of this report, the city changed how it is measuring what it calls critical incidents in city shelters. That essentially means it's now prioritizing certain crimes in its reports and leaving out others.
As part of the changes, the city is no longer reporting on the precise number of arrests made for certain crimes at shelters. It tracks those figures internally, one official said, but does not see it as an accurate measurement of the risk to health and safety inside shelters.
That decision comes as the NYPD takes over security at shelters and as advocates raise questions about how the department is policing the homeless.
"It's hard to understand what's going on if the data are not comparable year by year," saif Giselle Routhier of the Coalition for the Homeless.
This new way to calculate crime in city shelters makes it difficult to tell whether crime is going up or going down. Comparing time periods is now like comparing apples to oranges and this new measurement is painting a better picture for the city. The new crime rate is lower than in previous years.
The city says this new way focuses on actual injuries and is much more effective at providing security.